Dan Canon’s slogan, “You Have a Voice,” is a motto he said he tried to live by long before he decided to run for office.
Before he became one of the Democratic candidates trying to flip Indiana’s 9th Congressional District, Canon worked as a civil rights attorney. Canon pointed to this experience as one reason he could successfully represent the people in his district.
“My objective behind going to law school was to give people a voice within the judiciary, within the criminal justice system,” he said. “My aim with going to Congress is to provide a voice for people who feel like they have no say in one of the major institutions, the legislature, that governs their lives.”
This desire to be a voice for people who need help will easily translate into the job of a congressman, Canon said. A willingness to listen, empathy for others and an ability to solve problems creatively are vital skills in both careers he said he already employs every day.
Campaign manager Dustin Collins also highlighted Canon’s experience in civil rights law.
“It’s cases where you’re going against a broken system, and you are trying to correct an injustice,” Collins said. “He knows what it’s like fighting for Davids against Goliaths.”
This David and Goliath metaphor is one Collins said is repeated often within the campaign. Each individual voter is a David in the scheme of the government, he said.
“Dan can fight for them instead of fighting for a system, and I think that’s something only Dan brings to the race,” Collins said.
As a civil rights lawyer, Canon said many people told him he should run for office because they think that’s the natural next step. Until 2016, he always said no. With the results of the 2016 election, Canon said he thought something inherent changed in politics.
“It underscored the need for, I think, representation by real people who understand the real problems that are going on in their communities,” he said. “So here I am.”
This sense that politics as a whole is changing feeds into one of Canon’s most important concerns, which he said was people’s newfound ability to selectively consume media.
“It’s not like back in the day where everyone just sits in front of the TV and watches Walter Cronkite tell them the news,” he said. “If I’m hearing news from a source that I find unpleasant or it doesn’t adequately reflect my worldview in some way, I can shut that source out. I think that’s extremely dangerous.”
Another factor Canon said he sees as an advantage is he has lived in some part of this district since he was 3 years old. This lifelong experience in the district gives him insight about what issues the people here actually care about and what matters to the people he could be representing, he said.
“I grew up here, and I had the misfortune or fortune, depending on how you look at it, of going through a lot of the real-person problems that people experience within this district,” he said. “Having to live paycheck to paycheck, having to see my mom live paycheck to paycheck and worry about where the rent check is going to come from, that’s the kind of stuff that people are struggling with on the ground in Indiana in the 9th District and really all over the country every day.”
Canon also said his experience as an advocate has given him valuable experience necessary to work as a congressman.
“I’ve actually worked with other Hoosiers to solve real problems and to try to come up with solutions and to try to work to make their lives better,” he said.
Olivia Totten, IU sophomore and vice president of Canon on Campus, said this personal experience was what stood out to her about Canon the most. “He’s a homegrown Hoosier,” she said. “This is his community, and he knows it well.”
Another pervasive issue Canon said his campaign, and the whole state of Indiana, is facing is low voter turnout. In 2014, Indiana ranked last of all 50 states in voter turnout, according to the United States Election Project.
“That suggests to me that there are a whole lot of people who were not motivated enough to get up off their couch and go vote for anybody,” he said.
As a result, a large part of his campaign effort is targeted at reaching individual voters and finding out what will motivate them to come out and vote, Canon said.
“Something that Dan, and by extension this campaign, is really passionate about is getting out to people’s houses and talking to them one-on-one,” Collins said. “We’re trying to reach out to people across the political spectrum, find out what’s on their hearts and minds and then see what we can do to change that once Dan’s elected.”
One way the campaign is trying to reach more people is by opening a field office in Greenwood, Indiana. Collins said this office would be open in a few weeks and would act as another point of contact for people all across the district.
The idea of successful campaigns resulting from encouraging more people to vote applies nationwide. Especially for Democratic candidates, get out the vote efforts have the ability to sway elections, as seen in the Democratic Party’s recent success in elections in Virginia and New Jersey.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has also named Indiana’s 9th District a “battlefield district,” according to a release from the DCCC. A battlefield district is one of the most likely to flip from red to blue nationwide, and this presents an extra incentive for the Canon campaign to reach as many potential voters as possible.
Totten explained this idea in terms of IU’s population.
“We have a huge group of students on IU’s campus, and essentially if you got all of them to vote blue, it could flip the district,” she said.
Addressing voters’ concerns and motivating them to go vote is one aspect that Canon identified as a deciding factor in this election.
“When people actually go vote, Democrats win elections,” he said.